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Biotech sector sets high standard in engagement

Biotech sector sets high standard in public engagement

New Zealand's biotechnology sector is setting high standards in its work to improve public engagement and consultation around science, Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Speaking at the Talking Biotechnology conference at Te Papa, Steve Maharey said the Biotechnology sector had responded to recommendations from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification and was pioneering new ways to engage the public in the development of biotechnologies.

"It is vital that New Zealanders are involved and engaged in dialogue around science, particularly contentious areas of science such as stem cell research, nanotechnology and reproductive technologies."

"The biotech sector is showing considerable leadership in this regard and has developed new and innovative approaches to public engagement in science. "

Steve Maharey said the government was supporting the biotech sector to carry out research into ethical and socio-economic aspects of biotechnology, and to pilot new ways to engage New Zealanders in scientific dialogue.

Examples of community engagement around biotech include:

The bio-tech learning hub, (www.biotechlearn.org.nz), which features examples of biotechnology in practice and supporting classroom resources, and

the Constructive Conversations project, which aims to involve the public in decision-making about new health biotechnologies such as genetic testing

the development of Biotechnologies to 2025, a futurewatch document to alert New Zealanders to potential developments in science, and the ethical, regulatory and social issues such developments could create

The Navigator Network, which will bring together individuals and organisations with insight into emerging technologies, and their social challenges, to help government prepare for future innovations.

Steve Maharey said the experience of the Royal Commission in 2001 had reinforced that New Zealanders have a strong interest in the application of science and are far from passive bystanders.

"The Royal Commission signalled a need for more constructive communication that helps build public values into science and innovation. The biotech sector is to be commended for the way it is responding to this challenge."

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